Jumping into a new experience always comes with some unexpected emotions, uncertainty, and excitement. Will Bennett is currently studying abroad in Oslo, Norway. In the below article he discusses his arrival in Oslo and his first several weeks in Norway.
I arrived in Oslo on January 6th (has it really been that long?). Since my arrival I have felt every emotion I can think of—anxiety and ambivalence, excitement and joy, homesickness and belonging, and so much more. I can remember boarding the plane in Minneapolis by myself for the very first time. I was uncertain about most everything—did I choose the wrong place? Will I make any friends? Will I miss my family and twin brother and want to come home? Uncertainty. It is a scary thing admittedly. But within that uncertainty lives hope, opportunity, and adventure. Uncertainty is necessary—it is why I am here.
Making friends abroad
I can happily tell you that I have indeed made friends, more of them than I can count. I am living in the Sogn Studentbolig, a “student village” in the Northwestern part of Oslo near the Ullevaal Stadion, a professional soccer stadium. Every time I walk past the giant stadium towards the T-Bane metro I like to think of my favorite soccer player, Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swedish superstar is a world class striker who regularly beats up on the Norwegians…sorry to any of my Norwegian followers!! I digress, I have met friends from around the globe: Australia, Austria, Argentina, Cameroon, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, and of course the USA.
Ironically, it has been a real challenge making Norwegian friends while here in Norway. It is a cold country with warm and friendly people. However, I have found Norwegians to be equally quiet and reserved as they are tall and beautiful. And while they certainly are helpful to foreigners, don’t expect to make a quick friend with a stranger on the street or even with a fellow student in the campus cafeteria. In Norway, like all places, making true friendships takes time. Today I am very excited for the opportunity to be welcomed into the home of a Norwegian family for dinner. I hope to blog more about the experience at a later time.
Arriving in Oslo
Let me tell you a little bit about how I got here. I promise you I’ll forget my own name before I forget my car ride to the airport. It was an agonizing hour trapped in the passenger seat of my Mom’s car, and reality was finally setting in. I was leaving the country. I was leaving for six months. My mind was in vertigo—spinning and spiraling from one apprehensive thought to the next. In that moment I was letting the uncertainty get the best of me. Breath, I finally reminded myself. As Grandpa John used to say, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all shall be well.” And so I kissed my Mom goodbye, shared a few tears with her, and made my way through security.
The journey was split into two flights: Minneapolis to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Oslo. Upon arriving in Oslo, I quickly found the welcome party and met two French students, Louise and Valentine, who were volunteering to help new international students arrive. They showed me where to get a Ruter travel card for all my bus and metro needs, and also the keys to my room. That’s when I met Bianca, an Austrian student living in the same student village as me. It was snowing heavy wet snow, and Bianca and I marched our luggage up the steep and slippery hill towards Sogn. I learned that my apartment is at the very north end of the village, furthest up the hill.
When I finally arrived it took me over five minutes to figure out how to use my card to get in. This feels very silly now, but I had two different keys—one for the outside door and one for my room. I didn’t know how to properly scan either one, but eventually, I figured it out. I felt like Bilbo finding the secret keyhole to Erebor! My excitement was short lived as I entered my room. It was freezing cold and there was no blanket and bedding (This was my mom’s worst fear…oops…guess it came true!). Cold, exhausted, and lonely I took a restless nap, curled in the fetal position under my winter coat. Thankfully I later met a Lithuanian student who offered me his spare cover.
My first morning abroad
That first morning in Oslo I woke up tired. I wandered my way to the main campus library (there are additional libraries in each of the major departments: humanities, education, natural science, etc.). I only had to ask for directions three times and arrived just two minutes late at 12:02. There I teamed up with my twenty-odd fellow American students who were studying abroad through the same third party program, USAC, which is an excellent company with programs all around the world. I would recommend them to any college students who are thinking of studying abroad. It was so nice and necessary to meet other friends right away—it gave me a sense of security and belonging. Our Norwegian USAC guide Marius organized free events for all of us such as a scavenger hunt around Oslo, tours of the Nobel Peace Center and Viking Ship Museum, a stroll through the Vigeland Sculpture Park, and meals at excellent pizza and Indian restaurants.
After the first weekend, it was time to start the University of Oslo’s “Buddy Week” for new international students. It was a week-long orientation where I was sorted into a buddy group with numerous international students also studying humanities. Our three big buddies, Knut, Caroline, and Karoline showed us around campus, and there were many things we did together. My favorite was the bus tour around Oslo. Some of the highlights were the Holmenkollbakken ski jump, which can be seen from just about anywhere in Oslo. It looms over the city to the north and also includes a skiing museum. Another cool stop was the Akershus Fortress that once protected Oslo from naval enemies, most recently from the Nazis in World War II.
Now two of my classes have started: History of Modern Philosophy 1600-1800, and Norwegian for International Students. I am eagerly anticipating my third and final class—Witchcraft and Magic in Europe—which starts February 1st. My class schedule is more random here than I am used to back home. I will have to print off a calendar to stay organized. Those who know me well are very aware of how unorganized I am. I am more of a big picture thinker and I often get lost in the details of things. If I don’t accidentally miss a class here I will be astonished!
Soon I will need to get ready for dinner with what I casually refer to as my “host family,” (Norwegian family friends of my neighbors back home) so I need to wrap this up. I am truly ecstatic for this chance to study abroad in Norway and equally as excited to share my lived experiences with all of you readers. My goals for this blog is to become a better thinker and writer, to share my adventures with the world, and maybe even inspire my peers to study or travel abroad—starting world wanderings of their own. Thank you for reading and expect to hear from me soon!
The original version of this article can be found on Will Bennett’s blog, Wandering with Will.